I've been a little Cast-Iron Dormant of late - sorry about that. I won't bore you with excuses. Instead, accept this humble offering - three new recipes and accompanying pictures.
I've been wanting to make a nice dal in the crock pot for a while now, and finally decided today was the day to do it. But I decided I couldn't just have dal for dinner all by itself - that would be silly. Clearly I needed another curry to go along with it. And probably some naan bread, too. And so we called some folks and I made a vegetarian Indian feast - we had not only dal, but also muttar paneer, and naan bread.
The most fun part of today, the really new thing for me, was learning how to make paneer. I always try to order some paneer (or at least steal a bite of someone else's) when we go out for Indian, and I just assumed it was one of those really complicated things to make - that I'd have to buy rennet or a cow or something. Actually, it's pretty easy.
So here are the recipes, if you'd like to follow along. First, crock pot dal, as it's the one you need to start earliest (unless you don't use a crock pot to make it). It makes enough for dinner for four plus lots of leftovers, so if you have a smaller crock pot, feel free to halve the amounts.
3 c dry red lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large knob of ginger, minced
1 bay leaf
1.5 tbs cumin
2 tsp cinnamon + 1 cinnamon stick
1 can coconut milk
1 c crushed tomatoes
3-4 c veggie or chicken stock
1.5 tbs garam masala
1 tbs tumeric
1 c plain yogurt, to add at the end if you want. We didn't but it would be good.
Just put everything except the yogurt in the crock, give it a stir, and turn it on low for about 6 hours, or until the lentils are cooked and everything smells nice. Easy. This one doesn't look so pretty when it's cooked, so no photos.
Next, making your own paneer. Paneer is a very mild and delicious non-melty Indian cheese. It kind of has the consistency of tofu, but not the flavour, which instead is mildly creamy. It only has two ingredients:
1 litre of whole milk
juice of 1 lime
You'll need to have some cheesecloth handy to make this, or a very fine seive. I found lots of great tutorials for how to make this online - this was the one I ended up following - very helpful, and lovely photos!
1. Bring the milk to a boil - a full boil. When it is boiling, add the lime juice and stir. The curds will separate from the whey, as you can see in this astonishingly unappetizing photo:
2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the curds and place in the cheesecloth bag to drain. You'll need to drain it for an hour or two. For the first hour I hung mine from a knob, letting the whey drain into a measuring cup below.
For the second hour I pressed it between a rack and a heavy casserole dish to make a firm cheese suitable for cutting and frying.
3. When the cheese is firm, remove the bag and cut it into little cubes. It's now ready to use.
My favourite ways to eat paneer are in saag paneer (with spinach) or in muttar paneer (with peas). Tonight was a peas night. I turned to Nigella for help.
20 oz (by weight) of frozen peas
your paneer that you just made
some oil for frying
1 onion, very finely diced
1 knob ginger, very finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, very finely diced
1/4 c crushed tomatoes or PLAIN tomato sauce
1.5 c veggie or chicken stock
2 tsp tumeric
2 tsp garam masala
1. Fry your paneer. Heat up a pan with some oil and then add the cubed paneer. Let it get brown on all sides, then remove it to a dish lined with paper towel to drain. They should look AMAZING. Resist popping them into your mouth like popcorn.
2. In the remaining oil, gently fry the onion, ginger, and garlic. Add the spices and fry again for a minute.
3. Add the frozen peas, the stock, and the tomato. Cover, and let simmer until the peas are soft.
4. Stir in the paneer pieces and heat through.
Serve with naan bread to your happy guests.